All Things Japanese in Paris


All photographs courtesy Japan Expo.

All photographs courtesy Japan Expo.

As Paris welcomes the Japan Expo, we’re celebrating all things Japanese in the capital, from food to fashion.
The Japan Expo is an international festival of traditional and contemporary Japanese culture, from music, dance, art and crafts to manga, anime and video games. The Young Designers Village showcases the latest in fashion inspired by the Far East, with influences ranging from gothic to geisha. There’s always a party atmosphere, and many guests show up dressed as real or animated characters to take part in the World Cosplay Summit. The festival runs from July 1 to 4.

Now that Uniqlo has a store right next to Opéra, it’s simply rude not to pop in whenever I’m passing through. Known as the Japanese Gap, Uniqlo is a godsend for casual street wear and staples. It has another branch at les Quatre Temps in la Défense, which is also home to one of eight Muji stores in the Paris area. Muji sells quality housewares, gifts, gadgets and clothing with a no-label, no-waste philosophy, and the ambience is refreshingly zen.
Japanese eateries are becoming almost as omnipresent as bakeries and pharmacies in Paris. Rues Ste.-Anne (in the 2nd Arrondissement) and Monsieur le Prince (in the 6th) are lined with restaurants serving very similar set menus of cabbage salad, miso soup and sushi. For something a bit more authentic, there’s a cracking canteen-style restaurant called Kintaro, on rue St.-Augustin. My Japanese friend-of-a-friend swears the food here is as good as it gets outside his homeland. Instead of sushi, sashimi or maki, you’ll find great bowls of buckwheat or thick udon noodles, with meat and vegetables, swimming in soup or stock, and simple but divine rice dishes served in traditional trays. Don’t be put off by the queues: it’s well worth the wait. Set menus are around 10–13 euros.

Another find is Chez Taeko, a bustling café and takeaway in a covered market in the Marais (the slightly commie-sounding but rather lovely Marché des Enfants Rouges). It’s a firm favorite with the local lunch crowd for its traditional, healthy Kyushu meals of meat, fish, seaweed, pulses and grains served in boxes. Three courses cost around 15–20 euros.
Still on a culinary theme, I was excited to discover a Japanese patisserie, Sadaharu Aoki, on the fringes of the Latin Quarter the other day. Luckily there was a queue, so there was time to drool over the exquisite matcha (green tea) and dark chocolate éclairs. In the end I settled for wasabi, yuzu (citrus) and sesame macaroons. Ladurée, Pierre Hermé: you have competition.

Montmartre is the place to be at the moment for fans of Japanese art: there’s an exhibition of more than 1,000 works of Art Brut (outsider or raw art) taking place at la Halle St.-Pierre, right by the gardens at Sacré Coeur. The sculptures, paintings and drawings by 63 artists show both the universal character of this style of art and the distinguishing characteristics of Japanese art. This exhibition is the first project of its scale to take place outside Japan.

Chez Taeko

Marché des Enfants Rouges, 39, rue de Bretagne, in the 3rd.
Tue–Sat, 9 a.m.–7:30p.m.; Sun, 9 a.m.–2p.m.